It is now Sunday which marks the first day of my full week of volunteering. Last week I volunteered at two of the three places I will be working at for these next four months, and I could not be more pleased. Initially I came to Israel hoping I could participate in more physical labor such as what I did on Livnot (building walls, tiling floors of bomb shelters, painting houses, etc.) I was excited to be dirty and stay dirty. However, that seems to have only happened due to the lack of a clean shower I had living in Ashkelon.
But I can not say I am upset or disappointed that the volunteer work I thought I’d be doing I only got to do a handful of times while being here. In Rehovot my schedule consists of working at an elementary/middle school in a bad neighborhood filled with mainly refugees and immigrants. There I help to assist the English teacher from 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Another two days I’ll be working at an elementary school in a better neighborhood tutoring children one-on-one in English from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. From 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on three of the afternoons I will be volunteering at an after-school at-risk youth community center. I will continue to help students with their homework, play sports and other games with them, help with arts and crafts, etc.
I am very pleased with this volunteer work, I just didn’t think I would be teaching English quite as much. Another track on OTZMA is called the Israeli Teaching Corps, and for eight out of their ten-month program they only teach English in one school. I assumed that teaching English was their role. However, when I signed up for OTZMA I was told that the volunteer work I’ll be partaking in is the volunteer work that is most crucial to my location. I realize now that the volunteer work most needed in much of the country of Israel is to teach English.
In a country that is only a seven hour drive from north to south, it’s most important to know another language. Even if Israelis choose to stay living in Israel for their entirety, to further themselves in a career knowing English is the best thing they can do for themselves. In a world where technology is making this Earth feel a whole lot smaller, international work is crucial. Israel already has a large number of accomplishments to their name. But in a place where the countries surrounding them don’t particularly want them there, knowing only Hebrew can be very restricting. Besides maybe other Jews living outside of Israel who knows, or even is willing to take the time to learn, the Hebrew language?
If young children can learn English now, when it easier for their brains, then when they get older they can be more beneficial to Israel both internally and externally. Being here I now realize how important it is to teach Israeli children English, and this is why I know I am doing the right volunteer work here and thus helping to make a difference.
Currently in Sudan there has been a week-long voting process to split northern and southern Sudan into two separate countries. What was twenty+ years of a civil war where nearly two million people were killed and others wounded and stranded, peace may finally prevail. The voting began on January 9 and ended yesterday on January 15. Although we will not officially find out the verdict for about another month, it appears that the Southern Sudanese will want to become an independent nation.
If southern Sudan does not break away from the north the Civil War will continue. This would be, in my mind, the absolute worst that could happen. However, even if Southern Sudan does vote to become an independent nation, many problems will still be sitting there. How can a country just become a country? They have extremely limited resources, and a lot of undeveloped land — swamps and many other muddy areas galore. Schools, homes, Churches, etc. will need to be built. Gardening and farming for food will need to begin.
People will need to learn how to create a government and have a country that can succeed after living in the turmoil of a Civil War. Being in Israel for the past five months and learning about its history, Southern Sudan sounds just like Israel circa 1948. Thinking positively, I hope I’ll get to compare in these coming years how the country starts up and slowly begins to create itself with similar acts to the Zionist movement. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to fulfill my desire for physical labor volunteer work there one day.